Suzanne Fields

Hillary gets to speak, after all, but only to introduce Bill. He basks in applause, she glows. Is this the feminist dream, or what?

The Democrats are the party of the radical feminists but their women are sidelined together at the convention in Boston like a Beacon Hill tea for the ladies auxiliary. Hillary, the most prominent of all, is relegated to "wife of," standing by her man. Tammy Wynette would be proud. She should take a plate of her chocolate-chip cookies.

Linda Hope, the former chairwoman of the New York Democratic Party who went public with her outrage that Hillary wasn't highlighted, was told politely to shut up "for the sake of party unity and victory in November." After John Kerry called Hillary to tell her she could introduce her husband, the chastened Ms. Hope said the compromise was an "appropriate solution to a perplexing dilemma."

The dilemma, not really all that perplexing, was how to keep the ladies auxiliary happy without allowing the Clintons to upstage the party's two Johns. The "appropriate solution" accentuates the Democrats as the "Mommy Party," the very image John Kerry is trying to ditch with his appeals to "strength."

John Kerry capitulated to the ladies just as Arnold Schwarzenegger dissed certain Democratic legislators in California as "girlie men." Schwarzenegger took the image from a "Saturday Night Live" skit in which two weight-lifting Arnold wannabes mock the puny male dandies they encounter as "girlie men." The governor applied the term to legislators holding up his budget in Sacramento.

Said the real-life Arnold: "If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers.' . If they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men."

Democrats in California, who do not share the governor's sense of humor, complained that he insulted women and homosexuals. To observe that manliness is best expressed by men and womanliness best expressed by women is neither misogynist nor homophobic, but it does expose the Democratic Party's vulnerability to metaphors of weakness. The party is often characterized - celebrated, even - as the nurturing party, regarding the government role as "maternal" and all-caring, in contrast to Republicans, who emphasize self-reliance, self-discipline and a strong defense. The two Johns are determined to turn this perception around, if not in reality then certainly in rhetoric.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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